The Democratic Coalition has filed a criminal ethics complaint against White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over her comments calling for ESPN’s Jamele Hill to be fired for saying that President Trump is a white supremacist. (full complaint below)
Federal law makes it a crime to wrongfully influence a private entity’s employment decisions by an employee of the executive branch, such as calling for a reporter to be fired for speaking out for partisan political reasons.
Not only that, but our Constitution’s First Amendment protects the right to free speech and no government employee may take steps to silence members of the press, not even the President. They told us:
“When Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for Jemele Hill to be fired by ESPN, she crossed the line and put herself in dubious legal territory,” said Jon Cooper, Chairman of the Democratic Coalition. “Even in Donald Trump’s America, there’s still such a thing as freedom of speech. For Sanders to publicly call for the dismissal of a Trump critic is bizarre and disturbing, to say the least. If anyone is to be fired, it should be her.”
In March, her pro-Trump tweets during the president’s political rally while still working as Sean Spicer’s deputy were yet another example of the kind of partisan use of the White House, which another federal law prohibits.
But if the Department of Justice’s OSC finds that she violated the Hatch Act, she would only be punishable by suspension from her job or termination.
Today’s criminal ethics complaint is punishable by fines, and up to 15 years in prison if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is charged, tried and convicted of the crime. The relevant part of the federal law 18 USC 227 (a)2 reads:
Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
Huckabee Sanders’ completely inappropriate comments definitely influenced the decisions and practices of ESPN, Hill’s private employer.
If it wasn’t for brave actions of solidarity by the ESPN sportscaster’s co-workers, the network would have yanked Jamele Hill from her routine broadcast already.
The Trump Administration has constantly attacked the media, seeking to chill coverage of their numerous dirty deeds and the plethora of investigations into them, but this latest Democratic Coalition may well wind up the Waterloo in their illegal war on free speech.
Here is a copy of the complaint:
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) September 15, 2017
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition